The Department for Health and Social Care has announced that Bristol and South Gloucestershire will be providing additional community testing for COVID-19 following the identification of a mutated variant of the virus in the area.
Additional community testing, also known as ‘surge’ testing, will allow public health agencies to further investigate these cases and learn more about this mutated variant. It will also act to help reduce the spread of infection by finding asymptomatic cases and prompting people to self-isolate.
The one-off testing will use PCR tests, which are analysed in laboratories, rather than lateral flow tests (also known as rapid tests). Testing will place over the next two weeks across specific postcode areas and will include the roll-out of additional mobile testing units (MTUs), locations where people can collect and return test kits, and the delivery of test kits to homes in some specific areas.
Christina Gray, Director of Public Health at Bristol City Council and Sara Blackmore, Director of Public Health at South Gloucestershire Council, said: “We are in constant communication with local and regional health partners and the Department for Health and Social Care, working together to put in place all appropriate steps to reduce the local rate of infection and identify and stem the spread of this particular mutation as quickly as possible.
“We are working together on a swift, safe and co-ordinated response, with an enhanced community testing offer available to people in and around areas where this variant has been discovered. This will be in addition to ongoing availability of testing if you have symptoms (please book through the national system) and regular rapid testing for essential workers. This additional action will enable closer monitoring and work to reduce further transmission of the virus.
“We expect the number of identified cases of the mutated Kent variant to increase as a greater scientific focus is put on actively searching for it.
“Whilst we know the Kent variant is more transmissible the advice remains the same to everyone. Behave as if you are carrying the virus, stay in and only leave the home if you must. Do not mix socially outside of your household and continue to observe public health guidance – hands, face, space. If you are invited to receive a vaccine, please do so.
“Further information about our enhanced community testing offer will be made available in coming days as we move quickly to respond. In the meantime, I urge everyone to continue doing the most you can to limit the spread of the virus to protect yourself and each other.”
More information on the additional community testing programme can be found on the Bristol City Council website.
The three locations of the mobile testing units open from 9am on Sunday 7 February are:
- Bristol & Bath Science Park, Dirac Crescent, Emersons Green, BS16 7FR.
- Bristol City Council Testing Centre, 17-18 Wellington Road, BS2 9DA.
- Imperial Retail Park, Hartcliffe Way, BS13 7TJ.
Postcode sectors which are in scope to be offered additional community testing are:
BS8 3 (only within Bristol City Council boundary – check yours at www.gov.uk/find-local-council)
BS14 0 (only within Bristol City Council boundary – check yours at www.gov.uk/find-local-council)